Sickness is estimated to cost more than $576 billion each year in lost productivity, worker’s comp, and lost revenue in America alone. So as a business owner why wouldn’t you put some systems or strategies in place to reduce sickness in the workplace?
The problem is workers are afraid to miss days because it might show up on their reviews. As long as they are at work, they can get something done. If they go home, then they risk getting their children sick, which will involve taking even more time off of work in order to care for them. If you’ve run into this problem within your own company, there are a few ways to lessen the impact of sickness and absenteeism each year.
1. Promote healthy practices in the workplace and day to day life
Encourage your employees to wash their hands after using the restroom, hold a seminar on how to properly handle the early signs of illness, teach them to cough into their elbows, etc.—any number of practices can contribute to a healthier work environment. Ensure that hand sanitizer is readily available to anyone who needs it. If you have a break room, ensure there are healthy snacks. When flu season comes around, offer free flu shots to all employees. Any investment you make towards your employees’ health will pay for itself.
2. Keep the workplace clean & germ free
It’s all well and good promoting clean practices among employees, but if the environment in which they work is unsanitary then no amount of hand-washing or hand-sanitizer will prevent the spread of sickness-causing germs and bacteria.
Hiring a professional cleaning company to clean your offices once a week, or even once a fortnight depending on the size of your company, requires only a very minimal investment and the return will pay tenfold when you consider the money you will save in sick pay and preserved productivity.
3. Establish a clear absentee policy
Your employees should feel safe when they have to miss work, and for this, your policies must be clear. Do not encourage them to skip work, but make sure they know it’s a possibility in the event that they have to. For instance, an employee who is seriously ill can cause more harm than good coming to work—they run the risk of infecting other workers and further causing productivity to drop, whereas if they remain home until they are no longer contagious, you lose one worker instead of several.
4. Have a gym facility for your employees
Providing a way to better fitness and encouraging employees to use it will reap far reaching rewards. Not only do fit employees perform better, but they are healthier overall. Fitness leads to better morale and better productivity, promoting a healthier work environment in terms of the atmosphere as well as the cleanliness of your facility.
5. Encourage your employees to come speak to you
As their employer, you should be open and approachable. Maintain the authority you have over them, but encourage your employees to speak to you concerning any problems they may have. For instance, if a family member is seriously ill and they need to take a few days off, let them know it’s okay to speak to you first rather than just not showing up. Offer to allow them to make up for lost time if they want to, rather than taking an entire sick day. Your employees should feel free to trust you, but you must also return the sentiment by trusting them.
6. Offer incentives for good attendance
While you may fear this would encourage sick employees to attend work, it will actually have the opposite effect. If employees understand that missing work for the right reasons will not result in disciplinary actions, they are more likely to try to take care of themselves and heal faster. On the other hand, it will discourage those who do not really need to stay home to attend work. By fostering a feeling of respect for the work they do, you can encourage employees to come each day and feel needed.
7. Offer additional days off on top of the standard time
If you feel that your employees are overworked, or if they just came through a particularly taxing season, allow them to take a day or two off for ‘preventative health’ reasons. Providing employees with the proper amount of time to rest is much better than trying to deal with the aftermath and mistakes made by stressed out workers. It’s much easier to lose a day or two of productivity than entire weeks trying to correct mistakes, and the additional time off will foster even more trust and respect between you and your employees.
There is no need to lose productivity and have high absenteeism rates. It’s been shown that implementing policies like the ones listed above actually encourage productivity and attendance, rather than allowing employees to miss work. Sure, there will always be a few who take advantage, but that type of worker doesn’t remain employed for long. By taking proactive steps towards sickness and absenteeism, you can ensure your company is highly successful and raise the levels of health and cleanliness all around.
Author: Terry Etherton is General Manager of Total Concept Cleaning, professional commercial cleaning contractors in Perth Western Australia. Follow Terry on Google+.
Published: June 2, 2014